I previously posted about Empress Pavilion, the Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown, but didn't really touch on all there is to do in the LA Chinatown.
The area that encompasses Chinatown was originally Los Angeles' Little Italy. In the 1920s and 30s, Italians began moving out of Little Italy to elsewhere in the city. When the Italians moved out, the Chinese began moving in. In the 1930s, under the efforts of Chinese American community leader Peter Soo Hoo Sr., the design and operational concepts for the Chinatown evolved through the collective community process, resulting in a blend of both Chinese and American architecture. The Los Angeles Chinatown saw major development, especially as a tourist attraction, throughout the 1930s with the development of the "Central Plaza", a Hollywoodized version of Shanghai, containing names such as Bamboo Lane, Gin Ling Way and Chung King Road. Chinatown was designed by Hollywood film set designers and a "Chinese" movie prop was subsequently donated by the legendary film director Cecil B. DeMille to give Chinatown an exotic atmosphere. Today, this section of Chinatown is less frequented by ethnic Chinese residents and dayshoppers, though it is where several benevolent associations are located.
This neighborhood is very convenient to the Metro Gold line, if you so choose to venture out on LA's booming public transportation system. There is a page dedicated to the adventure through Experience LA - Chinatown.
We decided to drive there on a Sunday afternoon. It was hard to find parking, the streets were crowded, and there were a lot of people out. We walked the streets looking in the shops for deals on knick knacks, got lunch, and had a drink. We didn't get a chance to go into the museums, however I recommend if you go to Chinatown, try to check out some of the historical monuments and attractions. Every 1st Saturday on the month there is a walking tour of Chinatown for $20.
Art galleries are also becoming a big attraction on Chung King Road. On art opening nights, which occur on Saturdays every few weeks, throngs of LA art enthusiasts come to check out the latest in a the new galleries. It’s a strange and somewhat romantic scene, with the alley’s lanterns and worn-out gallery facades, as if pulled from some derelict 1950s movie set. Yet, it’s a scene that has become a new center for art in Los Angeles. Some describe it as a displaced Westside arts district — hip, edgy and young. And while the art is breaking boundaries, the galleries are still paying tribute to the culture of Chinatown; many have kept the original storefront names.
All in all, Chinatown is a definite must stop on a tour of LA. There is plenty to do and see, it will keep you busy for quite awhile.